Last week, the Oregon Legislature held a historic, semi-virtual special session. Convened by the Governor, the session sought to address policy bills related to COVID-19, policing reform and a handful of pressing issues carried over from the February session. The State Capitol remained closed to the general public and most staff as the legislature conducted their business through a mixture of in-person voting sessions and virtual committee meetings.

The only Committee that met was a special committee crafted for the special session. The Joint Committee on The First Special Session held virtual public hearings on bills with Committee members participating from their offices and members of the public offering testimony over the phone. Committee members held work sessions on bills in-person by practicing social distancing and wearing masks while in one of the larger committee rooms.

In response to the on-going, nationwide protests on police brutality and racial injustice, police accountability reform was one of the driving forces in bringing the legislature into session. Before the start of session, OSU President Ed Ray sent a letter to legislative leadership encouraging them to take prompt and transformational action in the area of police reform. Additionally, Isabel Nuñez Pérez and Jade Warner, Presidents of ASOSU and ASCC, submitted written testimony in support of the policing reform package.

Addressing the looming state budget shortfall was not on the Legislature’s agenda. The state is facing a $2.7 billion revenue shortfall for the remaining of the biennium due to the economic impact of coronavirus. Later this summer, another special session is expected to focus on the budget.

Over the three-day session, 26 bills passed and are expected to be signed by the Governor. Here some of the highlights:

Policing Reform Measures

Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform – HB 4201A – establishes a committee to examine policies to improve transparency in investigations and police protocols and to examine use of force policies. The committee will make recommendations by December 31, 2020.

Outlaw the use of respiratory restricting restraints – HB 4203A – Declares that a peace officer is not justified or reasonable in any circumstance to use physical force that impedes “the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person” unless it is a circumstance in which an officer may use deadly force as provided by in ORS 161.239. Rules will be adopted prohibiting the training of this force, except as a defensive maneuver. 

Duty to report and intervene – HB 4205A – requires police and reserve officers to intervene to prevent or stop another officer from engaging in an act they know, or should reasonably know is misconduct. 

Transparency of police discipline records – HB 4207A – requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to establish a statewide online public database of records for officers whose certification has been revoked or suspended and specifies the information to be provided as well as timeline for posting and requires law enforcement agencies to request and review an applicant’s personnel files from current or prior law enforcement agencies. 

Protecting freedom of speech and assembly from excessive force – HB 4208A – prohibits law enforcement agencies from using tear gas for crowd control, except for circumstances that meet the definition of a riot in ORS 166.015. In the event of a riot, the legislation requires sufficient notification and ability for individuals to evacuate an area before tear gas is deployed. 

Discipline guidelines and arbitration decisions – SB 1604 – requires an arbitrator to uphold a discipline decision should they agree that misconduct occurred, as long as the discipline lines up with the discipline guide. The disciplinary guide or matrix would be a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. 

COVID-19 Measures

Extending Expiring COVID Executive OrdersHB 4212, an omnibus COVID bill, addressed several issues that were covered in the Governor’s executive orders and other related issues, including holding public meetings virtually, adjusting court proceedings and siting emergency shelters. HB 4213 extended the moratorium on non-payment evictions due to COVID and HB 4204 addressed similar policies for mortgages.

Other Measures

Implementing Forestry MOUSB 1602 is the result of an agreement between the timber industry and environmentalist to address certain forestry policies in return for the withdrawal of three forestry related initiative petitions. 

Oregon Foster Children – SB 1605 provides several fixes to Oregon’s foster care system, including expanding the Oregon Promise to Oregon children who are placed in out of state foster care.

Medical Assistance for People with DisabilitiesSB 1606 sets out requirements to ensure that people with disabilities are not subject to discrimination in the care that they receive and that they have access to the support person(s) who can help them interact with the medical system. 

Expanding Oregon Meat ProcessingHB 4206 Authorizes State Department of Agriculture to adopt rules establishing program of state inspection for processing and sale of meat products.

Expanding BroadbandSB 1603 established a Broadband Fund with a dedicated funding source of up to $5 million for the purpose of grants for expanding broadband access.

17-year legacy at OSU

This week President Ed Ray finishes his 17-year tenure as President of Oregon State University. Please take a moment to watch this video in honor of President Ray.

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